The Challenge of Depiction

I’ve often sought a literalness when depicting the color of flesh. Overtime and many techniques, I eventually landed on a restricted palette which uses burnt sienna as a base along with french ult. blue, cadmium orange, sap green and crimson.

In “The Sophia Loren of Mill Valley”, however, I used only indigo blue and golden green with white over a cool rose background. It struck me how much “cool” color could be used to depict heat.

While I work on my next series of paintings, I’m further struck by how much more emotion can be conveyed when I stray from burnt sienna. In fact, no matter how far out or psychadellic my pallete becomes (gold green for warm tones, orange for cool tones, etc.) the viewer will still read it as a flesh and color, along with gesture, becomes yet another layer of articulation.

I remember watching the Academy Awards a few years ago and Selma Hayek and Penelope Cruz were on the podium to announce the next winner. Here were two of the most beautiful Latina actresses working in Hollywood standing side by side. But instead of having their beauty compounded by seeing them together, I started to focus on their differences– Selma’s arms seemed oddly short in comparison; the top of Penelope’s lip to the bottom of her nose is too small, etc.

I wonder if attempting to emulate the colors of flesh tone too close forces a subconscious comparison; whether or not deviating dramatically sets the viewer free. Surely Van Gough and Gaugin discovered this long before me, but it is one thing to know it intellectually and then another to do it and feel it come alive.

Lisa Yuskavage and her Nice Round Eggs

eggs.jpg yusk2.jpg

I heard a rumor that the painter Lisa Yuskavage spent her entire first year of Yale painting eggs. This is equivalent to a pianist practicing nothing but Czerny every day until her technique becomes flawless. Her subjects are so kinky and luscious — I now understand why she makes figurine models to paint from.
She also has a wicked sense of color.

I remember the moment I really understood reflected light. Like certain things in painting, it’s slightly counter-intuitive: you’d think that the when looking at a round object, the further the form recedes is where the shadow is darkest. Yet if you don’t light the edge and spill the surrounding color onto the form, it looks flat, like a sphere cut in half. Light from the other side of a shape actually leaks on to the surface. It’s when you don’t let your brain overrule your eyes, that’s when you can really see.


“Hot Faucet” by Kimberly Brooks